Tuesday, February 10, 2009

BETWEEN THE LINES (from Powder Burn Flash)

The guy just didn’t shut up.
One of the first lessons you learn is to keep quiet, especially when you don’t know any other cons, but apparently no one had taught him that.
Stark discovered that the first time he got sent up - he had been a tough kid who didn’t back down, no matter who got in his face and he wasn’t afraid to show it. One of the older inmates he once rode with pulled him aside a week into his stretch and said, “Just do your time and don’t say nothing to no one.”
“Don’t matter how long they give you or what kind of friends you got outside,” he added. “Ain’t nobody in here you can trust.”
Stark remembered what that old con had told him as he leaned into the table and poked at the food on the tray, his appetite gone while this guy named Randy went on and on. Monmouth Detention Center was a county lock-up, a sixty-eight man tank filled with dopers, petty criminals, low-life thieves, and DUI’s. Randy was like most of them – a hard luck story, attitude, and cockiness that hadn’t yet been hardened by experience. At least he hadn’t tried convincing anyone he was innocent, Stark thought.
Stark was four months into his year sentence for assaulting a drunk outside an Asbury Park bar. It had been his bad luck to wind up in a jail where he didn’t know anyone, so he did his time quietly. Sometimes he got into a little pushing and shoving with one of the short stint speed freaks or exchanged words with some of the older cons looking to flex, but mostly he kept to himself. He didn’t trust anyone in the cellblock and he found out quickly that it was better that way. The last thing you ever wanted to do was call attention to yourself.
Probably a lesson to remember for outside the jail too, Stark thought, although he wasn’t sure it made the same kind of difference.
Randy was a greasy, long-haired punk who looked like he had never done more than a week of lock-up. If he had, Stark thought, Randy would have known better than to run his mouth in front of strangers. He was just a cherry trying to make up for his inexperience with tough cool and bullshit.
“Used to put on a uniform and go through apartment complexes dressed like somebody from the cable company, carrying a clipboard and a tool box,” Randy bragged, barely able to swallow an ear to ear grin. “Go knocking on doors at lunch time. When a chick answered I’d tell her there were problems and I needed to look at her converter box to make sure everything was okay.”
“If she said no, I’d say ‘You want to miss your shows, it don’t matter to me. But I ain’t coming back for another two weeks, so the choice is yours’.”
“Be surprised how many let me in once you told them they wouldn’t get to see Dancing With The Stars,” Randy said with a laugh. “Hit ‘em a couple of times once they open the door and most times they just let you do what you want.”
“You so smart, how is it you got caught?” Stark asked from across the table.
“Somebody rat?” another guy asked.
“Nah, nothing like that,” Randy said with a laugh. “Got into this place up in Union and the chick’s biker boyfriend shows up in the middle of the afternoon. He was this crazy psycho and I had to jump half-naked out a second floor window to get away. Landed wrong and got the wind knocked out of me.”
“She didn’t press charges but the cops got me for breaking and entering.”
Stark stared a hole into his coffee cup.
“Something funny about getting sent up on a breaking and entering?” Stark asked.
“Nah, it ain’t that,” Randy said. “Heard he didn’t believe his old lady and busted her up pretty badly, and she didn’t do nothing except let me in.”
Stark shook his head and forced a smile along with everyone else, amazed that this guy was so matter-of-fact about it. Like the story was worth a laugh, and that sharing it with everyone got him accepted.
That night Stark stood outside the shower with a towel wrapped around his waist and waited. Showers were the best place to take someone out – blood washed off easily, clothes didn’t get stained, and it was impossible to see through the thick, opaque shower curtains. Stark dropped two bars of Ivory soap in a sock, knotted the end, and held it coiled close to his body.
When Randy stepped into the shower Stark moved in quickly behind him. He smashed the sock against the back of his head, dropping him to his knees with one blow. Before Randy could turn around Blunt cracked it across the side of his head, crushing his skull and shattering the bones in his face. Randy slid face down on the tiles, blood streaming from his ear and nose; instinctively curling into a fetal position as Stark pummeled him relentlessly with the sock. He beat him unconscious, stomped a foot into his gut for good measure, then furiously lathered his hands with the bars of soap before dropping them into the hot water puddling at the drain.
No one saw anything, no one knew anything, and the subsequent investigation didn’t last long – within a few days Randy was old news.
That Saturday Stark got his ten minute phone call, waiting on line for two hours at the pay phone so he could talk to his brother.
“Remember that guy you told me about,” he said. “You know, the one you caught jumping out your old lady’s window?”
There was a moment of silence before his brother grunted a hesitant yes.
“Got a funny thing to tell you about that,” Stark said.


Paul Brazill said...

This is like a whipcrack!

Pamila Payne said...

Very tight writing. I like the way the story took a sharp turn at the end and came back around to pay off the beginning.

Cat said...

OK this was fantastic loved the end!

Kevin Michaels said...

Thanks All! Appreciate the comments.